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Stock Island Properties Proposed 300 Room Hotel  in Safe Harbour, Florida
Deal Nixed Over Land Use Clash with U.S. Navy

By Ryan McCarthy, Florida Keys Keynoter, MarathonMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Jun. 3, 2009--A potential clash with the U.S. Navy over land use has sent Monroe County back to the drawing board when it comes to preserving the Keys' traditional working waterfront.

And that means the end of any talk of a huge resort complex on Stock Island, at least for now.

The County Commission on Tuesday voted to postpone indefinitely action on the 300-plus-room hotel proposed by New Stock Island Properties for its 54-acre Safe Harbour property.

A proposed amendment to the county's land-use plan that's needed to make the Stock Island hotel a reality has undergone several revisions by both county staff and the state Department of Community Affairs.

For some two years now, the county government and the state agency have gone back and forth on what specifically should and should not be allowed. Tuesday, the ball was in the county's court to take action -- but commissioners nixed the proposed land-plan change altogether out of fear the DCA would stymie it due to Navy objections.

And that means, county Growth Management Director Drew Trivette said, it will likely be some time before talk of the hotel comes up again.

"It will probably be for a long time. Process of adoption is over a year at its fastest, so we're at least that away from having anything new," Trivette told the Keynoter. "But what's more significant is staff has to come up with a new concept that's completely out of the box."

A county counter-settlement offer to DCA discussed Tuesday centered on finding a middle ground for hotel-room density in the proposed "deep port harbor" land-use category -- basically created to facilitate Safe Harbour redevelopment.

That's based on "a general requirement for working waterfront preservation in the Safe Harbour area of Stock Island of 40 percent for each parcel."

"Density bonus was a DCA suggestion," Trivette said. "We have to come up with a whole new plan ... and that takes time."

The Navy has opposed the New Stock Island redevelopment because it would increase density within its Air Installation Compatible Use Zone. The AICUZ, as it's known, is a 2007 study that identified noise footprints and potential accident zones around Boca Chica Field. The County Commission has refused to adopt the study.

DCA rejected an earlier version of the county's waterfront plan, prompting the county to seek approval by changing land development regulations. But DCA said for the waterfront law to hold up, it needs to be incorporated into the land-use plan.

The commission previously decided to no longer require developers to adhere to "no net loss" of working waterfront in order to build. That meant New Stock Island could have used a to-be-determined percentage of its waterfront for development purposes.

Tuesday's 3-2 vote to not offer DCA another plan and do away with the amendment came down to the commission wanting to deal with the Navy on its own and not have the state involved. Commissioner Mario Di Gennaro pleaded with Navy officials in attendance.

"We don't want anymore procrastination out there. Let's get something done so we can live together in harmony," he said.

Commissioners Heather Carruthers and Sylvia Murphy voted to send the amendment to DCA. Di Gennaro, Mayor George Neugent and Commission Kim Wigington voted against it.

The commission is scheduled to officially withdrawal the amendment at its June 17 regular meeting in Marathon.

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To see more of the Keynoter, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.keysnet.com.

Copyright (c) 2009, Florida Keys Keynoter, Marathon

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